GLORIES OF LORD SHIVA
The name Shiva means "all-auspicious", and wherever there is the mercy of Lord Shiva, auspiciousness and religiousness prevails. Even though Lord Shiva appears to be in the association of ghosts and demons, his actual transcendental position is that he is very kind to individuals who are in the darkness of the mode of ignorance. He is so compassionate on the lowest of the low, that he gives such individuals shelter and gradually elevates them to spiritual understanding. This is the explanation of Lord Shiva's transcendental position according to authoritative Vedic literature.
In the creation of the Supreme Lord there are different kinds of living beings, who exercise their minute amount of free will in different modes. Lord Vishnu takes charge of the persons in the mode of goodness, who are advanced Vaishanavas or Krishna conscious. Lord Brahma takes charge of those who are very much attached to material activities and are in the mode of passion. Lord Shiva is so kind that he takes charge of persons who are in the lower modes.
Lord Shiva as a truly self realized soul, is the epitome of compassion towards other living entities. An example of this can be seen in his agreeing to consume the lethal poison "halahal" that surfaced during the great churning of the causal ocean by the demons and the demigods. Out of concern for the plight of the demons and the demigods, he scooped the entire poison in his hand, drank it and by his great mystic powers held it in his throat. So powerful was the poison, that it turned his throat blue, giving him the name "Neelakanta" (blue-throated).
Lord Shiva is so magnanimous that he grants his followers what ever they desire. One of his names is "Ashutosh" or one who is easily pleased. Once a devotee of Lord Shiva, Vrikrasura requested for an unusual benediction from Lord Shiva, that whomever he would touch, that person's head would fall off. Even though Lord Shiva knew that such a benediction was not good, he considered the devotee's good quality and that he had worshipped him, and granted him the benediction. Later Vrikrasura tried to touch Lord Shiva's head and was tricked by Lord Vishnu into touching his own head. But this reflects the attitude of Lord Shiva. If a devotee has a good quality, he magnifies it and ignores the bad qualities. He is the most beloved personality, he is universal.
All Vedic literature describe Lord Shiva as the agent of destruction. When annihilation is due in the cyclical course of time, it is Lord Shiva who is the personal destroyer of all the world systems. And until that time Lord Shiva willingly serves as the master of the most fallen souls, so that they can be gradually elevated to the Kingdom of God.
Lord Shiva is considered to be a "guna avatar" (qualitative incarnation) of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His position is therefore unique. He is sometimes called almost-God. He is compared in the Brahma Samhita to yogurt, while Sri Krishna is compared to milk. Yogurt is non different from milk, however it is still different in the sense that yogurt cannot be converted back to milk. Similarly, where as Sri Krishna is never effected by the material modes of nature, even when He descends to be a part of it, Lord Shiva kindly accepts the position of serving as the controller of the mode of ignorance and the destruction of the material universe.
Even though Lord Shiva deals with the most fallen, he is always transcendental to the mode of ignorance. People given to falsehood, consume liquor and intoxicants under the guise that they are devotees of Lord Shiva. However all the teachings of Lord Shiva given in the various Puranas is aimed at devotional service. In the Vaishanava Purana it is stated that Shambhu (Shiva) is the greatest Vaishanava. In the Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva himself declares that one should take to the devotional service of the Supreme Lord. Of the four authorized Vaishanava disciplic successions. one emanates from Lord Shiva himself and is referred to as the Rudra Sampradaya.
Further Reading for Interested Readers : Srimad Bhagvatam Cantos 4 and 8, A Handbook of Krishna Consciousness by Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami.